Why CIA drone strikes have plummeted

The pace of the CIA’s drone campaign has plunged this year as part of a renewed push by the Obama administration to shift responsibility for lethal counterterrorism operations to the Pentagon, current and former U.S. officials said.

The agency has carried out at most seven strikes in 2016, putting the spy service on course to take fewer shots from remotely piloted aircraft than in any year since 2007, two years before President Obama took office and made the agency’s drone program a pillar of his counterterrorism approach.

U.S. officials said several factors have contributed to the sharp drop in the number of strikes, including the staggering depletion of al-Qaeda’s ranks in Pakistan, where in 2010 the agency launched 118 attacks. By comparison, the CIA has fired missiles from remotely piloted aircraft only twice this year.

But the decline also has been driven by White House decisions to curtail the CIA’s lethal

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